Are Adult Children of Divorce Doomed to Failing Relationships?

No. However, many issues work against our success that need to be addressed if we are to avoid the negative ACD statistics column. But what are the problem areas?  And how do we handle them?

Dreamstine

First, some issues—and from an unusual source.
Australian entertainment writer, Nigel Gladstone, asked a very unpopular question in the midst of the fluff and gush of the royal wedding. What are the odds Harry and Meghan will divorce?He listed the following negative factors:

  • She’s from America –which has high divorce rates
  • Both are celebrities—who, as a group, have notoriously high divorce rates
  • Both have divorced parents—which increases the odds of divorce 200% compared to those from intact families2
  • People who spend more than $20,000 on their wedding triple their chances of divorce—who would have thunk that?1,3 

Factors I’d add:

  • Interracial marriages can add significant social pressure to the marriage relationship
  • They’ve created a step family—due to her two sons—which often adds divisive internal pressure on the marriage relationship for, at least, the first five to seven years.4

Pixaby

Internal and external pressures
All relationships have internal and external pressures that work against them. Internal pressures include differences of opinion, family or origin differences, emotional baggage, different life goals, spiritual differences, and other things that can create sparks and hurt feelings. ACD add a of lack of trust, anger, the fear of doom, father hunger, and other flawed paradigms to the mix.

External pressures include extended family, children, in-laws, ex’s, social mores, cultural challenges for missionaries, and privacy challenges for celebrities. Unfortunately, few are trained to deal with external and internal pressures on relationships effectively. Consequently, the relationship of the two individuals—the Bible says two sinful individuals—can break under the pressure.

Lowering the odds of divorce
The new royal couple, and every couple around the world that include an adult child of divorce, need to:

  1. Learn about and identify external and internal pressures (particularly ACD related issues) that can negatively affect their relationship. Gary Neuman’s book, The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-Step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce is an excellent start.
  2. Stepfamilies (or stepfamilies-to-be) should read The Smart StepfaFamilyLife Blended logo (Smart Stepfamily)mily by Ron Deal and review the materials online at Family Life  blended.
  3. Couples considering marriage should pursue premarital counseling, but ACD and blended families especially need premarital counseling that includes marriage and parenting skills, blended marriage issues, and ACD issues.
  4. People who attend church regularly divorce less.3,5 One reason is God is the biggest champion for marriage and provided a textbook for a successful marriage. The Bible includes many guidelines for healthy marriages like, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her(Ephesians 5:25) and “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). Followed in a humble and loving way, marriage can be the safe, nurturing, and loving bond ACD crave.

So “No” our relationships aren’t doomed. Because with God’s help, and our humble submission to His will for our lives, every obstacle can be managed, minimized, or overcome and the cycle of divorce can be broken—even for royalty.

 

1https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/what-are-the-odds-harry-and-meghan-will-divorce-20180519-p4zg94.html
2Wolfinger, N. H. (2005). Understanding the divorce cycle: The children of divorce in their own marriages. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
3 Francis‐Tan, A., & Mialon, H. M. (2015). “A Diamond Is Forever” And Other Fairy Tales: The Relationship Between Wedding Expenses and Marriage Duration. Economic Inquiry, 53(4), 1919-1930.
4 Deal, R. L. (2014). The smart stepfamily: Seven steps to a healthy family. Baker Books.
5 Feldhahn, S. (2014). The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. Multnomah.

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Woman and Bible – Prayer a Powerful Weapon by abcdz2000

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Primal Loss Through the Eyes of ACD

If you could ask adult children of divorce questions about the impact of their parents’ divorce, what would you ask? More important, how would they answer? Leila Miller found out by asking seventy ACD the same eight questions.  Her book Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak not only gives their answers, but except for the introduction, the entire book is their answers—no commentary, no “expert opinions,” no “it’s not a big deal” bravado.

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As a result, for me, reading Primal Loss was like drinking orange juice concentrate without the three cups of additional water. I’m used to reading ACD stories that are liberally separated by statistics, comments, etc, so you get a break from the intensity of the parental divorce experience. Miller gives us 100% ACD dialog and it’s a tough read at times. However,  two important things occur as you read: you realize your challenges aren’t unique, and you learn you aren’t crazy because of your challenges (for the most part!).

Miller’s eight questions were:

  1. What effect has your parents’ divorce had on you (the longest chapter)?
  2. What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?
  3. Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or your view of marriage?
  4. What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?
  5. What would you say directly to your parents about the divorce and how it affected your life than and now? Would you advise them to do things differently, and, if so, what?
  6. What do you want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?
  7. What role has your faith played in your healing?
  8. What would you want to say to any children facing their parents’ divorce today? What would you want to say to those parents considering divorce (leaving out cases of danger)?


How would YOU answer these questions? Does it even matter now with their divorce so long ago? YES! Because your answers (and the emotions surrounding them) are inside you and probably leaking out in various ways (anger, fears, troubled relationships). Also because, as the individuals in the book found, thinking through it helps.

Important recommendations
For those of you who are ACD, before you start reading Primal Loss, I encourage you to let your loved ones know what you’re reading. This is to prepare them for the up and down and all around moods you’ll experience.

I also recommend reading it with a friend or two. The Bible says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.1 As you read through the chapters, get together weekly and debrief. This will help keep you focused on the healing process God desires you to complete.

Lastly, please leave a comment about how the book affected you. I’m very interested in your thoughts!

 

1Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT.

Images:
Thinking RFID by Jacob Botter
Girl talk by Nathan Rupert

Will You Roll the Stone Away? – A Sunday Snippet

On that first Easter morning when the women found the stone rolled away, the tomb of Jesus was empty. He had risen as He said, and crushed the sin which separates us from God.

Many adult children of divorce have a stone in front of a tomb filled with unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, frustration, hopelessness and fears.

Parental divorce can produce all that and much more. One can easily add regret, sorrow, disillusionment, depression, anxiety, and more divorce to the list. The stone is lodged tightly so nothing can get in or out. Many of us like it that way. Keep all that ugly stuff behind the stone.

The smell of hurt
Why we do this was explained at another tomb. Earlier Jesus went to raise his friend Lazarus from the grave. Martha, the deceased’s sister, protested because it had been four days and “by this time he stinketh.1 Love the King James version here, but Martha was correct. Stuff buried for four days, four months, four years, or four decades stinks.

We know this because, occasionally we (or a loved one) get a waft of the stench when we react poorly to a stray comment a parent makes, or our spouse doesn’t meet a need, or a friend “betrays” us, or our fears are triggered by something and we lash out, or we’re anxious with no tangible reason to be so. Our tombs leak.

It’s time to roll away the stone
When Jesus rose from the grave He overcame man’s greatest enemy—death. But if He could beat death, isn’t it reasonable that Jesus can help us overcome our hurts and all the stuff behind our stone? The Bible encourages us to “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”2

But that’s a big step for many of us. God knows that, and He is not going to force you to do anything you’re not ready to do. But He does want you to know He loves you enough to want healing in your life—true healing, not Band-Aid healing.  He wants to take away your anger, hurt, and fear. The question is, will you let Him?

In our time
Maybe because I’m a guy it took years before I allowed God to help me. Guess it’s like asking for directions. But to my surprise, He didn’t move the stone all at once. He’d pull it back a little and we’d deal with whatever smell came out—maybe the smell of bitterness. Then back it went. Eventually, we moved it away from the tomb door, but it took quite a while.

To be honest, my tomb still has a pretty strong residual stink to it, but it is so much better than it used to be. Thank God!!! This Easter season, I encourage you to talk to God about cleaning up the stuff behind your stone. And remember that with God all things are possible

 

1John 11:39
21 Peter 5:7
3Matthew 19:26

Images
Thinkstock
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

When Mothers Leave – A Survey for Some of You

After completing a workshop on Father Hunger, which explains the long-term impact of the father’s absence after a divorce, I was asked, “What about when mothers leave?” I couldn’t answer. All the research I’d seen dealt with the impact on the kids after the fathers left. But I assured them I’d return with a wealth of helpful information.

That’s when I learned how little data was available on this topic. Even though authors like Jen Abbas (Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain) and Stephanie Staal (The Love They Lost) experienced their mother’s departure, neither addressed it directly–and the issue has gone largely unnoticed in the world of research. So, my Masters thesis explores the impact of a mother’s departure on the children at the time, and after they grow up.

This is where you come in. The survey link below is for those whose mother left after the divorce—she was the non-custodial parent. If this is you, please complete this survey. If it is someone you know (sibling, friend, relative, coworker), please share this and encourage them to complete it.

I will summarize the findings of my thesis and the survey here when it’s complete.

Thanks for your help.

Survey – ACOD Whose Mother Left After Divorce

A Gift to Help Marital Love Last

Adults with divorced parents often lack the template for what a healthy marriage looks like. During this season of love, why not give a gift that will help you and your spouse strengthen your relationship by learning what makes each other tick?

I encourage both husbands and wives to buy the set of books called, “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. (Ladies, you may want to get the audiobook or MP3 for your husband.)

These books do two things:

  • Help men be far less clueless as to how to keep their wives happy
  • Reveal to women just how clueless they are about what really makes their husbands happy.

Whether you want to make a good marriage better, a struggling marriage good, or you just want to decrease the hurt feelings and disrespect, make these books the love gift of choice this month!

“Let him Kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for your love is more delightful than wine”
~Song of Solomon 1:2

“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful”
~Song of Solomon 1:15

Who to Call Instead of the Lawyer

Tis the season…for divorce filings. Right after the holidays, people (roughly two-thirds women) will call a lawyer to “explore” how to free themselves from the misery of their marriage.

The first thing the “helpful and understanding” lawyer will do is give advice that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what needs to happen: “don’t talk to your spouse about this.” Unfortunately,  divide-and-conquer pays their bills, not reconciliation.

Please understand I’m not minimizing:

  • your hurt
  • all you’ve done “to make this work”
  • how unloving or disrespectful your spouse is
  • how unappreciative and unsupportive they are
  • how many prayers have gone unanswered
  • or….fill in the blank.

However, terminating any chance for constructive communication is NOT the answer. “But all we do is argue! We can’t talk without name calling, blame, and hurt.” That may be true, but get real help.

1)   An organization called Focus on the Family‘s sole purpose is to strengthen families. For forty years they’ve had people you can talk to for free. Their number is 800-232-6459. They have a wealth of resources that can help marriages that are even tougher than yours, but more important, they provide a listening ear.

2)   Find a couple that has been married for at least 30 years, treat them to coffee, and spill your guts. An outside and long-term perspective is crucial at this time. Very often you’ll find these couples have weathered storms similar or worse than yours.

3)   Commit or recommit yourself to God. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior, listen to His words, ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Jesus can help you.

If Jesus is your Savior, act on the words of Psalm 61 verse 2, “when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”2 That rock is Jesus Christ. With God all things are possible. That can include changing your heart and/or the heart of your spouse.

Lastly, if your parents are divorced, please look over the resources on our resource page. Learn how the collapse of your parents’ marriage is greatly affecting how you see yourself, your spouse, and your own marriage. Before you call the lawyer, commit that you will never do to your kids what your parents did to you!

This is the most important blog of the year to share, because the person who needs this information hasn’t told you. In fact they haven’t told anyone. So let’s work together to stop the next wave of divorces…and adult children of divorce.

1Matthew 11:28-30, The Message Bible
2King James Version

Images
Divorce by Tony Guyton

 

An ACOD and The Ghost of Christmas Past

 

Christmas joy filled my childhood home. With snow falling and carols flowing from the record player, Hallmark movies were pale imitations of the Yuletides I enjoyed. Glorious Santa celebrations, complete with gifts, laughter, food, and fun, continued until I turned the corner into my teen years. There awaited my parents’ divorce.

Regretfully, the Christmases my mom, sisters, and I enjoyed after that point are dim memories. My mother moved mountains to make each December 25th special, but my appreciation for her efforts was pitifully small. Season’s greetings just weren’t the same for a teenage boy who missed his dad. The day was special, but something–actually someone–was missing. Also, unbeknownst to me, this period birthed a ghost of Christmas past.

Unlike those of Charles Dickens’ fame, mine wasn’t front and center. This specter hovered at the corners of my mind and shrouded my view of the sacred holiday. For years, at the first sound of Noel-tinted melodies, the ghost would awake from hibernation and get to work. However, its job wasn’t to teach me lessons from Christmases past. Planting seeds of remorse was its charge—thoughts of Christmases that never were, or holidays that should have included my dad and mom together.

In adulthood, I worked retail. Many in this field will tell you that the time of year people should have the most Christmas spirit seems to be the season they have the least.  So my retail management career, combined with the efforts of Casper’s evil twin, slowly produced an intense distaste for the season that celebrated my Savior’s birth. Though happily married with a growing family, an unexplained cloud hung over the festive tunes and TV programs. Smiles came hard, and joy had deserted me years earlier.

Why do I share this during this “most wonderful time of the year”? For two reasons: first, too many adult children of divorce can relate to these emotions, but have never given them voice. Second, to encourage you.

As I learned to turn toward the pain of the holidays and how to move on, God exposed the unfriendly ghost and I sent it packing. Then, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day! Over time, the clouds from the past parted and revealed the beauty of a baby born in a manger. A beauty that transcends who may or may not be celebrating with me around the tree.

This is a gift God would like to give you too. Seem impossible? “With God, all things are possible”1—even restoring your joy. Pray to Him and ask Him to bring healing to your heart. It’s a journey, but one God wants to do with you! Why not make that your new year’s resolution?

 

 1Matthew 19:26

Images
Hark the Herald Angels sing – http://www.dwellingplaceindy.org/hark-the-herald-angels-sing/
Emily’s Christmas Tree Cookies by Ralph Dally
madhouse Macy’s at Xmas by Eric Mueller
Star of Bethlehem Nativity by Garrett W